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Hydrology, watersheds, sedimentation

Science Spotlights

Image of fire along high elevation ridge in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana
Fires are burning higher and broader. Increases in burned area and altogether larger fire occurrences have been noted throughout the past half-century within western regions of the United States. The key word in all of this: higher. Recent collaborative research by Rocky Mountain Research Station, McGill University, University of California, and Boise State University focuses on the elevational distribution amongst forest fires in mountainous...
Aerial view of the Glacier Lakes Ecosystem Experiment Site (GLEES).
As drought spreads throughout the U.S., communities must balance water needs across users. This work looks at trends in water use throughout the U.S. and projects the vulnerability of water systems in a future with climate change. We project both supply and demand for water for a wide range of climate scenarios and show where adaptation will be needed to prevent water shortages.
A four-panel map of burn severity, erosion, sediment transport, and delivered sediment.
Rainfall-caused erosion following wildfire can contaminate community water sources. The research team used a simulation approach to estimate the likelihood of water quality degradation and collection system shortfalls for a community with multiple water sources in Colorado. 
Arm reaching into stream water with sampling cup
The mountain sucker has been declining in the Upper Missouri River Basin for unknown reasons. To address this uncertainty, a team of Forest Service researchers collected additional genetic data from these fish to find a section of DNA that is completely unique to this new species and developed an environmental DNA assay to detect this unique DNA fragment in water samples with increased accuracy. 
The cover of : Forest and Rangeland Soils of the United States Under Changing Conditions: A comprehensive science synthesis
A new, open-access book synthesizes current research and management information on forest and rangeland soils, offers ways to understand changing conditions and their impact on soils, and explores directions to positively affect future forest and rangeland soil health in the face of these impacts.  
A screenshot of the eDNAtlas Results Map for the Western United States.
Because of its advantages relative to traditional sampling techniques, environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling is being rapidly adopted to address questions about the distribution of species in streams across the United States. The eDNAtlas provides occurrence information for over 50 species from more than 12,000 samples and assists organizations in collecting more samples for specific areas and species. 
A fire burning on grassland.
Natural wildfires have been important in creating and maintaining grassland ecosystems for millions of years, and prescribed fire is an important component of modern grassland management. Land managers want to understand the effects of fire on grasslands and the ecosystem services they provide, particularly as wildfires become more frequent due to drought.
An example of riparian areas assessed by this project. This photograph shows Bear Valley Creek on the Salmon-Challis National Forest with a shallow gradient and wide valley bottom meandering through depositional material. Photo by D.M. Smith, USFS.
Riparian zones – boundaries between land and rivers or streams – are often overlooked, but are critical for the healthy function of watersheds and ecosystems. The Rocky Mountain Research Station has worked with the USDA Forest Service Intermountain Region to develop targeted maps and assessments of riparian zones in several National Forests that will inform future management and planning efforts. 
A photo of snow melt turning into a stream within a densely forested mountain landscape
In coniferous western forests, recent widespread tree mortality provided opportunities to test the long-held theory that forest cover loss increases water yield. Collective results indicate that post-disturbance streamflow and snowpack may increase, stay the same, or even decrease. This post-disturbance hydrologic response depends on vegetation structure, climate, and topography.  New hypotheses continue to be formulated and tested in this...
The riparian vegetation along the upper Gila River in southwestern New Mexico has high richness of woody plants and extremely high densities of nesting birds including the Federally endangered and threatened species
Rivers and streams of the American Southwest have been heavily altered by human activity, resulting in significant changes to disturbance regimes. Riparian vegetation in aridland floodplain systems is critically important as foraging, migrating, and breeding habitat to birds and other animal species. To conserve riparian ecosystems and organisms, understanding how plants and animals are affected by disturbance processes and multiple stressors is...